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Pope to visit Thailand, Japan in November

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will finally fulfill his desire to be a missionary to Japan when he visits the country, as well as Thailand, Nov. 20-26, the Vatican announced.

Pope Francis will leave Rome Nov. 19, arriving in Thailand for a visit Nov. 20-23, said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office.

He will then fly to Japan and visit Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima Nov. 23-26, Bruni said Sept. 13.

Further details about the trip and an exact schedule were to be released later.

The bishops of Thailand have chosen the motto: "Christ's Disciples ... Missionary Disciples" as the theme for the visit to their country. The visit, they said, will mark the 350th anniversary of the "Apostolic Vicariate of Siam Mission."

The special website launched for the visit said that, with the establishment of the vicariate by Pope Clement IX in 1669, "Roman Catholicism was permanently established in Thailand."

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See in 1969, and the 35th anniversary of the last papal visit to Thailand, which was made by St. Pope John Paul II in 1984, the website said.

For their visit, the bishops of Japan chose the theme, "Protect all Life," drawing the phrase from a prayer written by Pope Francis and included in his encyclical, "Laudato Si'" on the protection of creation.

"In order to 'protect all life,' we must respect not only each person's dignity but also the environment," the bishops said. "However, the earth as 'our common home' is now trampled by humankind and groans with pain. Those groans overlap with the distress of all the abandoned people of the world."

"In Japan today as well, there (are) a multitude of problems related to life and peace in addition to the issues of economy, environment and relations with neighboring countries," the bishops continued. "Moreover, recovery from natural catastrophes and nuclear plant accidents remains a persisting problem."

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has said he had entered the order hoping to become a missionary to Japan in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier and other great Jesuits. He also has spoken frequently of his admiration for Japanese Catholics who kept the faith alive through decades of persecution.

And marking the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015, Pope Francis had said that "although much time has passed, this tragic event still incites horror and repulsion."

The bombings have "become the symbol of the boundless destructive power of man when he makes distorted use of scientific and technical advancements and serves as a perpetual warning to humanity to forever repudiate war and ban nuclear arms and all weapons of mass destruction," the pope said.

He ended his remarks by praying that "from every land may a single voice be raised: no to war, no to violence and yes to dialogue, yes to peace! With war, you always lose. The only way to win a war is to not make it!"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019